Peter Andrikidis is one of Australia's most respected directors. The Straits marks the third series where he has worked with rising talent Aaron Fa’Aoso, and the first to be based on aspects of his life.
“He’s had a pretty hard life – he’s got a lot to say,” Andrikidis says, who first worked with Fa'Aoso on crime series East West 101 and the soon-to-be released bikie telemovie Brothers in Arms.
"Aaron’s grown so much from East West one to East West three – he’s just learnt so much. He’s like a sponge and he just keeps getting better and better. Certainly, with this character [Noel Montebello] there’s a balance of humour and also, he has a heavy touch as well, so getting the tone of the show right was the big thing with all that cast, so it’s not corny stuff and it still has dramatic levels.”
The ABC has high hopes for The Straits. Set in Far North Queensland and the Torres Strait, it follows the drug-smuggling Montebello family. When Harry (played by respected Scottish actor Brian Cox) starts to plan his succession, it spurs a power struggle between brother and brother, wife and daughter. Other central cast members include Rena Owen (Kitty Montebello), Jimi Bani (Marou Montebello), Firass Dirani (Gary Montebello), and Suzannah Bayes-Morton (Sissi Montebello).
The first episode in the 10-part series, which premiered on ABC1 last Thursday (February 2), had a solid debut, drawing approximately 599,000 viewers. While Matchbox Pictures' previous drama, The Slap, drew almost 1 million viewers, The Straits is a different type of genre that intertwines dark humour with a criminal backdrop.
"Once you get it right on the page it's hard to fuck up," Andrikidis says. "I think that's the essential element and also the balance of humour and drama … geting that mix is something that is hard to get right."
Playright Louis Nowra worked on the concept alongside Fa'Aoso while Nick Parsons wrote the first episode (Andrikidis directed episodes one-three, and eight).
A recent newspaper advertising insert promoting The Straits.